Creating accessible presentations is easier than you might think – although your body text is probably too small…
No matter what your role, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to either create or deliver a presentation at some point. It’s tempting to include all of your thoughts in the slides, but your aim is for your audience to listen to you rather than read from the screen – your talk should expand on the slides, not be verbatim.
PowerPoint is the most frequently used presentation software, but the principles remain the same for other packages such as Keynote.
Most presentations are displayed in 16:9 or widescreen format, but check with your venue or event organiser to ensure that works for their screens.
- Include the presentation title, your name and the date on the opening slide
- Include a contact or web address on the final slide
- Get someone to check through your slides for sense, and be prepared to shorten your presentation.
Design and layout
If your programme or institution has a template, please use it and abide by any guidance provided. However, it is worth bearing in mind the following points as some templates do not conform to accessibility guidelines. Don’t be tempted to amend the master slides!
If you’re creating your own template, remember that people may be watching from the back of the room or on a small screen,:
- Text font size should be no smaller than 28pt and a maximum of two thirds of the width of the slide. If your text doesn’t fit, edit it.
- Always use a proper heading, at least 40pt. If your slide title wraps onto two lines, it’s too long – edit it to fit.
- Use a maximum of four bullets per slide
- One topic per slide is enough – create a separate slide for the next topic.
Make sure there is enough contrast between background and text colours. There is a balance between too much and not enough contrast – very strong contrast can be difficult for neurodivergent readers, while not enough contrast is tricky for visually impaired or colour blind individuals. Use a contrast checkerOpens in a new tab to be sure.
Use animations sensitively and keep them to a minimum. Please don’t animate text or use flashing images of any sort as that can be uncomfortable for neurodivergent readers.
Only use one image per slide, and make sure you have permission to use any photographs – that means:
- Explicit permission from the photographer to use the image for your specific purposes
- Explicit written permission from any person featured in one of your own photos
- An image from a free online library such as Unsplash
- Downloaded with an appropriate licence from a stock library
- In accordance with any CC licence from Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, etc.
Please credit the source correctly, in accordance with the relevant licence or permission, or the source if it’s from a paper or report.
For graphs and diagrams, bear in mind that people are unlikely to be able to read the finer detail, so make sure the message is clear and easily understood.
If you’re showing a video, or a still from a video, make sure you have permission to do so, and check what’s going on in the background – if someone is standing in front of a proprietary video, you must have permission for that too.
The Welsh Government have a good guide on creating accessible PowerPoint presentationsOpens in a new tab.
Sharing your presentation
When writing your presentation, make good notes – these are helpful for you but also essential if you’re sharing the slides later.
Do not be tempted to add presentations to your website as a pdf – they are often hefty files that miss a lot of the nuance of a spoken presentation. The slides are only useful to those who actually attended the event or talk, so a more targeted approach to sharing is recommended.
Banner photo credit: Alex Litvin on Unsplash